Web Exclusives: Raising Kate

a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)


March 10, 2004:

Princeton marches on
From Alumni Day to pricey brownie confections


Alumni Weekend 2004

Saturday was perfect. The temperature was above 45 degrees for the first time in weeks, and Frisbees and high spirits soared. In celebration of Alumni Weekend, Princeton flags flew from the turrets of the prettiest buildings. Over at 1879 arch, a red flag bearing the numbers of that class snapped in the breeze, buoyed by the supernal laughter of invisible Princeton men.

McCosh Walk was filled with willowy, white-haired men and their younger mates — the Second Wives Club, as I like to think of them — who smiled genially, coating every Gothic surface with the effluvia of good breeding and old money. They marched off merrily to Toni Morrison's reading from Love and to "Chemistry in an Hour," the annual display at Frick in which students in the department practice alchemy — impress the old Tigers, and they'll buy some more high performance liquid chromotographers for the lab. One senior in the chemistry department dropped potassium metal into a beaker of water. The reaction — highly exothermic — produced sparks, smoke, and a putrid smell before turning the water bright pink. The unvoiced question — "Why not orange?" — hung in the air, more palpable than the smoke.

The alumni who came back to Princeton last Saturday represented the mythic Princetonians of popular imagination. These are the alums who return to Princeton to watch the football team get pummeled by Yale and to reminisce about the good old days, when they divided their time between striving for a gentlemanly mediocrity in their coursework and corrupting Barnard girls at social mixers. These alumni don't give a damn about Butler College being torn down — as a post-1970 addition to the campus, Butler College doesn't exist for them, nor does anything south of Patton Hall, the Hadrian's Wall of their sentimental, benevolent old imaginations.

Chancellor Blues

For a while it looked as though Chancellor Green would go the way of the Nude Olympics. Construction of the Frist Campus Center was underway. Chancellor Green was just breaking even on costs, and the café was open on an increasingly limited basis. Even the graduate students weren't turning out as they had in the past. A campaign begun in the spring of 2000 to keep the facility open had petered out by the fall, and Chancellor Green was quietly shut down. Then Frist came along and everyone was happy again. Dining Services, in a gesture — homage or nose-thumbing, depending on your perspective — to the defunct student center, named one of the offerings in the new Frist deli the "Chancellor Green Wrap." As in, "That's a wrap, Chancellor Green — now Frist is the big boy on campus."

For a while it was all over, and then suddenly it wasn't.

Turns out the rumors of the demise of Chancellor Green have been much exaggerated.

Thanks to a lavish financial gift by Gerhard Andlinger '52, Chancellor Green has been renovated as part of a larger Center for the Humanities. The newly renovated facility houses a reading room and two seminar rooms. Most important, it houses a café.

Anthony Grafton, chair of the Council of the Humanities, said in a recent Daily Princetonian article that Dining Services, which is responsible for the food at both Frist and the new Chancellor Green café, would be "creative" in keeping the two facilities unique. There are some culinary differences. The fare at Café Vivian is decent, but the cinnamon rolls and muffins get snapped up fast, leaving only green biscotti for the evening study crowd. Chancellor Green Café sells elegant salads and a pricey little confection called the "pyramid brownie" that goes for $1.50. It also serves Small World Coffee, in the same Small World cups, minus the foamy cappuccino and hipster employees indigenous to the original venue.

The new Chancellor Green Café is, unfortunately, characterless, but there's plenty of time to fix that. Already it has some advantages over Café Vivian, including more internet hook-ups and better lighting. The downside? There aren't any decorations on the walls — no blown-up, vintage covers of the Tiger or snapshots of the 1893 freshman/sophomore snowball fight — and, as my friend Seth put it, "The music sucks."


Two years ago, when it was announced that a 10,400 square-foot, two-story building would be built between Joseph Henry House and Firestone Library in a traditional 19th century style, no one expected that the building would end up looking like the tack house of a moderately prosperous Midwestern farmer.

The facility — as yet unnamed, as yet unfinished — houses European Cultural studies, Hellenic studies, and Judaic studies. The completion of this project is the last stage in establishing the Andlinger Center for the Humanities, an endeavor that began with the renovation of East Pyne and the Joseph Henry House.

Inside the new building a few days ago, Modern Greek 102 was in session as heavy construction work took place outside. No one in the class could hear the lecturer. The situation brought to mind the scene in A Beautiful Mind when Jennifer Connelly leans out the window and asks the construction workers to hold off on the jack hammering so she can hear Russell Crowe explain Fourier Theory. In an example of Greek class failing to imitate art, we did nothing. The lecturer carried on, trying to speak above the roar, until she suddenly froze and pointed to the back of the classroom. We looked up from our books as the enormous yellow scoop of a bulldozer pivoted menacingly, inquisitively, inches away from the window. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park, right before the T. Rex rips the top off the Jeep and goes for the blond girl. As the bulldozer operator cruised by in profile, he turned to us and grinned.

Survey on Race, Survey on Dillon Gym Facilities, Survey on...Colin Powell?

These days there's a lot standing between exercise buffs and a visit to Dillon Gym. For starters, there's the governor of New Jersey — at least, everyone says it's the governor — who visits the gym early in the morning to use the elliptical machine and do some light weightlifting. The governor has a posse — a couple of guys with wires in their ears follow him around — and a black SUV with tinted windows.

For the past week, a second impediment to easy access has come in the form of six laptop computers in the lobby of Dillon Gym. The attendant won't let gym users pass through the turnstile until they first take a brief computerized survey, responding to questions on gender, affiliation — alum, undergraduate, graduate student, professor... — and the one-or-two facilities they plan to use. The intent is to pinpoint those facilities that receive the most use, and to make improvements accordingly. Wily students on club sports teams, seeking better accommodations, encouraged their teammates to make frequent excursions to Dillon and surreptitiously take the survey several times before entering the gym. A group of even wilier students, out for personal gain or out to pull one over on the university, tried to walk off with one of the laptops, but was foiled at the last minute by the attendant.

The computer has become an important tool for gauging university sentiment. All elections for the Undergraduate Student Government take place electronically, as do most assessments, most recently the Survey on Race and Campus Environment, a thirty-question survey that asked such questions as "How would you rank the racial/ethnic integration of the student body" and "How did your high school environment differ from that at Princeton in terms of racial/ethnic diversity."

Given the prevalence of the computer as democratic tool, it came as a surprise that when the inaugural Crystal Tiger Award was awarded on Friday to Secretary of State Colin Powell on behalf of all undergraduates at Princeton, it was done so without the vote — electronic or otherwise — of all undergraduates at Princeton. In reality, it was a group of four students — operating without input or nominations from their other 4,638 colleagues — who selected Powell.

The Prince published an editorial decrying the award-by-oligarchy: "The undergraduate student body gives the award, its presenters claim, to 'agents of progress' who have 'shown us a richer humanity and inspired us to pursue it.' But Powell shouldn't be receiving the award tomorrow. It is not an award from the undergraduates." The editorial went on to concede that "it's difficult to get someone of Powell's stature to come to campus to accept an award," a nice way of saying that it is unlikely that Powell would have come to Princeton to accept the Crystal Tiger Award if it had been given on behalf of Rishi Jaitly '04, Jacqueline Perlman '05, Harrison Frist '06, and Russell Barnes '07.


You can reach Kate at kswearen@princeton.edu